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View Full Version : To Those Who Have Built Your Own Aquarium Or Sump out of Glass or Acrylic How Has You


JaysLittleOcean
08/09/2017, 05:17 AM
Since we have been in our new home for about a year and I have moved to a new position that provides a more work/life balance I know have the time to build out my new aquarium. Since I will be remodeling the basement for my new home office I decided that maybe I should build my aquarium down there since I want to go big. I also would be proud to build mostly everything myself as I am an engineer both for trade and at heart. I am curious to know what others experiences were in building their own aquariums or sumps out of glass or Acrylic. How did or are your builds fairing? What issues did you run into? What would you have done differently? Would you rather have just paid a professional aquarium builder? What should I really pay close attention to should I decide to go down the DIY path?

mcgyvr
08/09/2017, 05:51 AM
The actual construction of the tanks themselves are best left to the professionals IMO..
You really aren't going to save much if any money and personally I would just sleep better knowing it wasn't something I "got my feet wet on".... Because a failure could get more than your feet wet.. They aren't that hard to build really at all but its just not something I personally want to venture into yet.. And I play an Engineer at work too and am super handy..

But drill glass holes/construct overflow boxes/sump baffles/light mounts/stands,etc... all you want..
Thats what I just did..
I bought an undrilled/untempered tank and another for a sump and did everything else myself..
I feel plenty of accomplishment from that..

JaysLittleOcean
08/09/2017, 06:17 AM
The actual construction of the tanks themselves are best left to the professionals IMO..
You really aren't going to save much if any money and personally I would just sleep better knowing it wasn't something I "got my feet wet on".... Because a failure could get more than your feet wet.. They aren't that hard to build really at all but its just not something I personally want to venture into yet.. And I play an Engineer at work too and am super handy..

But drill glass holes/construct overflow boxes/sump baffles/light mounts/stands,etc... all you want..
Thats what I just did..
I bought an undrilled/untempered tank and another for a sump and did everything else myself..
I feel plenty of accomplishment from that..



Thanks Mcgyver! Maybe I'll play around with the sump and stand first. What is your preference, glass or acrylic?

mcgyvr
08/09/2017, 07:42 AM
Thanks Mcgyver! Maybe I'll play around with the sump and stand first. What is your preference, glass or acrylic?

Glass.. for sure..

Vinny Kreyling
08/09/2017, 09:09 AM
I built basically a 90 gallon tank out of acrylic for a sump.
1/4" was OK but I should have used thicker.
There were baffles but they were within 6" of each end and I had to add a center brace to help some but it did bow.
Held water for a number of years before moving.
Now I have a stock tank with just 1 baffle for a sump.
EASY PEASY.

ssky
08/09/2017, 03:53 PM
Glass wump with glass baffles. Get it cut professionally and make sure the edges got polished. You don't want to cut yourself while working in the sump.

der_wille_zur_macht
08/09/2017, 06:10 PM
I've built sumps and tanks out of acrylic, plywood, and glass. I think my preferences would depend on the specifics of the project. I like acrylic for sumps, but it's just so much extra work - I think I'd prefer to use a ready made glass tank with baffles glued in. I like all glass tanks, but again you can buy something off the shelf most times. Plywood is great, if you understand how it works. There's one case where you CAN save money, if you're willing to write off your own time. My plywood 360g had maybe $500 or $600 in materials (it's been a long time since I built it, I'm guessing). A similar custom tank from a reputable builder would have probably been at least 6 or 8 times that much, if not more.

Be prepared to spend time learning and practicing. Build some small test pieces first. Get lots of opinions, there are lots of people out there touting a specific approach who (IMHO at least) are a little off base. Come up with what works for you, based on your tools and skills, but be ready to invest time and money in order to do things right.

You really should do it because you WANT to do it. Like any other DIY. Don't do it to save money or anything like that. You can get a lot of satisfaction out of building your own tank, but

JaysLittleOcean
08/10/2017, 06:24 AM
I've built sumps and tanks out of acrylic, plywood, and glass. I think my preferences would depend on the specifics of the project. I like acrylic for sumps, but it's just so much extra work - I think I'd prefer to use a ready made glass tank with baffles glued in. I like all glass tanks, but again you can buy something off the shelf most times. Plywood is great, if you understand how it works. There's one case where you CAN save money, if you're willing to write off your own time. My plywood 360g had maybe $500 or $600 in materials (it's been a long time since I built it, I'm guessing). A similar custom tank from a reputable builder would have probably been at least 6 or 8 times that much, if not more.

Be prepared to spend time learning and practicing. Build some small test pieces first. Get lots of opinions, there are lots of people out there touting a specific approach who (IMHO at least) are a little off base. Come up with what works for you, based on your tools and skills, but be ready to invest time and money in order to do things right.

You really should do it because you WANT to do it. Like any other DIY. Don't do it to save money or anything like that. You can get a lot of satisfaction out of building your own tank, but



Der_wille_zur_macht thank you. That makes sense to me. My ultimate goal is not to save money. If I wanted to do that I would just not start in the hobby to begin with. You also touched on a build that has always interested me, that the plywood. With the area downstairs that I am looking to build my aquarium I am really only going to see one side of the aquarium. I also have yet to see a long running example of a reef plywood aquarium. I have read articles of people starting them and having issues with hair algae due to what might be attributed to leaching of the chemicals being used to actual create he water proof seal. But this type of build has always intrigued me. Have you seen any examples of a good plywood reef build?


Also for everyone else you chooses glass over Acrylic was that choice mostly due to the cost of materials or the method of how the pieces fit together with either silicone or Acrylic glue?

camaroboy8691
08/10/2017, 07:21 AM
just remember alot of tank builders / business's started becuase someone wanted to build there own.... if you have the skill set and are 100% confident in yourself go for it..

i built a 500 gallon acrylic tank several yrs ago it was interesting to say the least but it was built and i used it for a few yrs then sold it off... cost was a factor for me... but i have a metal fabrication background so wanted to give it a try...

im actually thinking about my next tank since i have been away from the hobby for a few yrs, but considering building my own again but glass this time around.... might just buy one done.

JaysLittleOcean
08/10/2017, 07:26 AM
just remember alot of tank builders / business's started becuase someone wanted to build there own.... if you have the skill set and are 100% confident in yourself go for it..

i built a 500 gallon acrylic tank several yrs ago it was interesting to say the least but it was built and i used it for a few yrs then sold it off... cost was a factor for me... but i have a metal fabrication background so wanted to give it a try...

im actually thinking about my next tank since i have been away from the hobby for a few yrs, but considering building my own again but glass this time around.... might just buy one done.

Camaroboy8691, well if you do decide to build your own aquarium just let us know so we can follow along in the thread.

der_wille_zur_macht
08/10/2017, 07:32 PM
Have you seen any examples of a good plywood reef build?

I'd say "mine" but that would seem egotistical. :D There are plenty of old plywood aquariums out there. I know of one locally that traded hands a few times. It was roughly 400 gallons, it ran for at least 10 or 12 years that I know of. There were two others in the area over 500g that lasted for many years, and one 1000g that was up for at least a few years. My 360g came down after maybe 5 years, but that was more a decision on my part in terms of the presence of such a large tank in the house vs any failing on the concept of a plywood tank. I would certainly argue your theory that they are prone to hair algae or that there are issues with chemicals leeching, that's simply not true.

Plywood is good because it's "easy" in the sense that it's achievable with moderate woodworking experience and easy to use tools. It takes a lot of time and energy but IME it's the best in terms of being accessible. Building a large glass tank is a one-shot deal, you either get it right or you don't, and there's a ton of risk. I wouldn't be comfortable doing that unless you'd built many smaller tanks. Building with acrylic is great, but it also takes some pretty unique skills, and there's a pretty significant investment in terms of tools and techniques (you can build a large plywood tank with a $30 circular saw, it would be a challenge to build a large acrylic tank without a really good table saw and a really good router. The bits and blades alone will cost more than the entire set of tools used for a wood tank).

There are a handful of good plywood builds on this forum but you really have to search for them. The Monsterfishkeepers forum is a good resource for people building all sorts of large tanks, including plywood.

Lsufan
08/10/2017, 10:33 PM
To me I think the tank itself would be better off buying from a manufacturer. Unless u decide u want a plywood build, but a big glass or acrylic tank is not something to learn on. There is a lot more to it then most think & like anything it's all the small details that can end up ruining a build. There really isn't any videos or much information online to learn all the small things eighther.

I think that u will have enough time in the sump, stand & everything else that comes with a build. If u buy a tank from the manufacturer it will give u more time to do all the other things that come with a build, especially if your planning a large tank.

I prefer glass tanks & a lot of them these days come with crystal clear glass if u want it

JaysLittleOcean
08/11/2017, 06:08 AM
I'd say "mine" but that would seem egotistical. :D There are plenty of old plywood aquariums out there. I know of one locally that traded hands a few times. It was roughly 400 gallons, it ran for at least 10 or 12 years that I know of. There were two others in the area over 500g that lasted for many years, and one 1000g that was up for at least a few years. My 360g came down after maybe 5 years, but that was more a decision on my part in terms of the presence of such a large tank in the house vs any failing on the concept of a plywood tank. I would certainly argue your theory that they are prone to hair algae or that there are issues with chemicals leeching, that's simply not true.



Plywood is good because it's "easy" in the sense that it's achievable with moderate woodworking experience and easy to use tools. It takes a lot of time and energy but IME it's the best in terms of being accessible. Building a large glass tank is a one-shot deal, you either get it right or you don't, and there's a ton of risk. I wouldn't be comfortable doing that unless you'd built many smaller tanks. Building with acrylic is great, but it also takes some pretty unique skills, and there's a pretty significant investment in terms of tools and techniques (you can build a large plywood tank with a $30 circular saw, it would be a challenge to build a large acrylic tank without a really good table saw and a really good router. The bits and blades alone will cost more than the entire set of tools used for a wood tank).



There are a handful of good plywood builds on this forum but you really have to search for them. The Monsterfishkeepers forum is a good resource for people building all sorts of large tanks, including plywood.



Der_wille_zur_macht thank you! Honestly I think I am going to go the plywood route. What did you use for waterproofing your build? I was considering going with Pond Armor.

JaysLittleOcean
08/11/2017, 06:10 AM
To me I think the tank itself would be better off buying from a manufacturer. Unless u decide u want a plywood build, but a big glass or acrylic tank is not something to learn on. There is a lot more to it then most think & like anything it's all the small details that can end up ruining a build. There really isn't any videos or much information online to learn all the small things eighther.

I think that u will have enough time in the sump, stand & everything else that comes with a build. If u buy a tank from the manufacturer it will give u more time to do all the other things that come with a build, especially if your planning a large tank.

I prefer glass tanks & a lot of them these days come with crystal clear glass if u want it



Lsufan, thank you. I agree large glass aquarium is probably not the best thing to work on. Maybe for that I will try my hand at a smaller glass build for a Quarantine Aquarium for skills building.

Ron Reefman
08/11/2017, 07:34 AM
I started with a glass frag tank 25g (2'x2'x10") about 6 years ago. I've made 5 tanks since then, the biggest being a 65g (4'x2'x14") shallow reef. I just got the glass for my next build, a 4.5'x1.5'x16" sump.

I wouldn't build anything bigger without professional help. But then none of my tanks has failed yet.

JaysLittleOcean
08/12/2017, 04:50 AM
I started with a glass frag tank 25g (2'x2'x10") about 6 years ago. I've made 5 tanks since then, the biggest being a 65g (4'x2'x14") shallow reef. I just got the glass for my next build, a 4.5'x1.5'x16" sump.

I wouldn't build anything bigger without professional help. But then none of my tanks has failed yet.



Ron Reefman, thanks. Glad to see none of your systems have failed yet. [emoji1303]

Timfish
08/12/2017, 07:01 AM
If you want to build big I would go acrylic and use Sci-Grip #40 or get the applicator gun and use their #44, their much stronger than the solvent types. But glass tanks are much easier to clean and I would suggest Momentive 108 RTV, it has about twice the tensile strength of generic silicone (if price and color are not issue their 167 RTV is a couple times stronger). But standard size tanks are much cheaper and you could a multitank system in a corner and either a common sump or joint them by drilling holes in the sides and using bulkhead fittings (you'll probably need a thin spacer between the tanks).

der_wille_zur_macht
08/12/2017, 07:08 AM
Der_wille_zur_macht thank you! Honestly I think I am going to go the plywood route. What did you use for waterproofing your build? I was considering going with Pond Armor.

I know people have done it with pond armor but I don't know much about that technique. I used the poured epoxy technique. Basically, you end up with a very thick layer of marine epoxy coating the entire inside, it's very durable and thanks to the multi-layer application it's very forgivable (if there's a pinhole in one layer it'll get filled by the next).

Ron Reefman
08/12/2017, 07:11 AM
This is the start of my new sump/refugium. It's just clamped together to check fit and finish of the glass cutter. I'm always impressed at how accurate and straight their cuts are!

http://i395.photobucket.com/albums/pp37/RonReefman/2017-08-11%2008.40.53_zpsbdqrbse3.jpg (http://s395.photobucket.com/user/RonReefman/media/2017-08-11%2008.40.53_zpsbdqrbse3.jpg.html)

http://i395.photobucket.com/albums/pp37/RonReefman/2017-08-11%2008.41.09_zpscjfig15r.jpg (http://s395.photobucket.com/user/RonReefman/media/2017-08-11%2008.41.09_zpscjfig15r.jpg.html)

McPuff
08/15/2017, 12:46 AM
I have actually just finished a DIY acrylic tank. It's small (12" cube) and that's how I wanted to start. I made it so I could have a separate display that was part of the larger system and therefore minimize the equipment needed while having an ultra stable "nano" tank. Truthfully, I went with a quick and easy approach. I didn't bother to prep the edges much so there are some tiny bubbles in the seams. I did use some bracing on the top though it is not necessary. It was remarkably easy and since it wasn't my first acrylic project I had a bit of experience to help me along. The tank has worked out perfectly so far (about a month) and I don't see any issues forthcoming. You can see pics on my thread below. I'll also post a link to the video at some point in this section.

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2605811

I'll be building two more identical tanks to use for TTM and QT. The difference, however, is that I'll take more time to prep the edges and make cleaner seams. Really, this is unnecessary but I'd like the practice in case I decide to build an acrylic sump at some point... which I am pondering (or maybe PVC??).

If you're interested in making your own tank, then I think you should go for it. It's rewarding and fun. My advice is to at least build a small practice "project" to learn about the process firsthand. It doesn't even need to be a tank.

hotelbravo
08/17/2017, 11:48 AM
This is the start of my new sump/refugium. It's just clamped together to check fit and finish of the glass cutter. I'm always impressed at how accurate and straight their cuts are!

http://i395.photobucket.com/albums/pp37/RonReefman/2017-08-11%2008.40.53_zpsbdqrbse3.jpg (http://s395.photobucket.com/user/RonReefman/media/2017-08-11%2008.40.53_zpsbdqrbse3.jpg.html)

http://i395.photobucket.com/albums/pp37/RonReefman/2017-08-11%2008.41.09_zpscjfig15r.jpg (http://s395.photobucket.com/user/RonReefman/media/2017-08-11%2008.41.09_zpscjfig15r.jpg.html)

Where do you buy your clamps?

I am wanting to build a 40g-60g cube but have been unsure where to start with equipment needed

Ron Reefman
08/19/2017, 03:58 AM
The big end clamps can be found at most any hardware store. I think the corner clamps can as well. I had one I inherited and got the other 3 from Home Depot. If they don't have them, maybe a picture framing shop would have them.

A tip: when using these clamps, do NOT over tighten and use some kind of cushion where they touch the glass. My glass comes with cork squares to keep the glass from rubbing together, you can see them on the glass laying in the bottom of the sump. I just use some of them on the pads that press against the glass. It's fairly easy to chip the edge of the glass if you over tighten. And the big clamps can squeeze out too much silicone if you over tighten.

My build thread shows how I made the 2'x2'x20" cube that I added to my 125g tank system.
http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2593017

Lsufan
08/19/2017, 11:31 AM
To me the corner clamps make it much easier & I wouldn't try to build one without them. They shouldn't be hard to find & Home Depot will more then likely carry them. It's one of those things that u don't notice until u are looking for them. They also sell a bunch of different lengths of clamps all the way up to 3'. I have only built a couple, a 40 & 75 gallon. I clamped them exactly how Ron has his.

Like Ron mentioned, When clamping u have to be careful not to put to much pressure & create pressure points on the glass. I would get the glass set where it needs to be by hand & use the clamps to hold it in place. Don't use the clamps to get the glass where it needs to be, that's how u create pressure points.

scubadan206
08/21/2017, 11:06 PM
http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2553967
My build thread. I built the sump from plywood and glass. Used the series from DIY fishkeepers on Youtube as a guide. Messy but not too difficult. Saved a lot on materials vs buying pre-fab. Tools bought and used are another story